Archives For Personal Effectiveness

When I think about what makes a great boss, one of my first items is someone who really knows what they are doing – a true expert. And when I think about what makes a true expert, in my mind it’s always an older person, someone with sage-like wisdom who has been where I am… but a long time ago.

If you’ve worked for any length of time, you know that’s just not realistic.

I’ve managed folks who were older than me in the past and recently finished an assignment with my first younger boss – a great experience for me. If you’re younger than the folks you lead, keep these best practices in mind.

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I recently conducted a needs assessment for a senior executive group and was surprised when one of the highest rated development needs was stress management. The topic came up again in training discussion when another executive group expressed a high desire to include stress management on the list. I guess I assumed in a climate where everyone was expected to delivery more with less (as is the case in most places) the topic would seem too “soft” to them.

Now I’m thinking maybe they were on to something. Instead of ignoring the stress, they’re trying to be proactive about it. If the business reality won’t change anytime soon, maybe we can better adapt to it.

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Dealing in Hope

January 9, 2017

Napoleon Bonaparte claimed, “A leader is a dealer in hope.”

Hope is a strangely human enigma. It can’t be handled but it can be shared. It can’t create anything on its own but it can pave the way for new accomplishments.

Whether you’re celebrating a new beginning (like the start of a new year), caught up in new adventure or struggling to maintain the status quo, hope plays a key role. Not only must leaders be positive (no one wants to follow a pessimist!), they must deal in hope that can be felt and transferred.

Here are several ways to grow and share your hope.

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Expertise Matters!

November 21, 2016

Years ago I served as a consultant to two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that worked closely together. At one, the head accountant was a friendly woman who very much enjoyed her job. But on several occasions, there were questions regarding the way the numbers added up and we had to work together to find and fix the errors. One day the president of the other NGO expressed a need for a new accountant and I casually suggested he consider the accountant from the first NGO. He rolled his eyes and commented that her lack of expertise would be a liability on his team.

I’ve thought about that scenario quite a few times since then. There have been occasions where I was clearly out of my league at work. As a young consultant, I struggled so much with the ambiguity of my role that I was frequently unable to sleep at night. I didn’t know what I didn’t know – and worse, I didn’t know who I could ask for help since I was expected to perform anyway. I didn’t want to be like the woman in the first NGO: a friendly and enthusiastic person who couldn’t be taken seriously as a professional.

Expertise isn’t the only critical factor in getting a job done, but it certainly is one of them. In its absence, ideas can’t “tip,” planning gets skewed and results suffer.

Not all of us are required to be the ultimate expert on any given day, but some of us are. Regardless, any expertise you can acquire will go a long way. Here are six ways to build your expertise – regardless of your field.

expert-definition

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How do you get your big idea across in the age of information? A quick keyword search can provide anyone with much more data than they could ever hope to use. What’s the secret to getting your idea past all the clutter and into the land of reality?

It’s been well over a decade since Malcolm Gladwell published his bestseller The Tipping Point. In it, he explains that it’s not the quality of the idea itself, but the quality of three key ingredients that cause the idea to tip. If you haven’t read the book, below are the items (hint: they’re people) as well as a few strategies to employ.

Idea Light Bulb

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When you’re new to the workforce, enjoying leadership success can be a far off goal. The main focus is finding the right role and doing quality work. I know that was the case for me. But with time and experience (and a lot of hard work) come new opportunities to lead at higher levels. You go from joining a team to leading a team to eventually leading a department or major organizational function. Each time the strategy shifts.

A couple years ago I was privileged to have Mark Miller guest post on my site about surviving success. We all need a game plan to kick off a new opportunity. But our behavior needs an adjustment as well.

In his bestseller What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, executive coach Marshall Goldsmith shares twenty habits that can be largely overlooked at lower organizational levels, but have the potential to absolutely derail a senior leader who doesn’t change course. There isn’t room to share them all in this post, but I’d like to highlight five extra critical ones. Fail to implement them, and your best people may go looking for a new leader.

Man Stuck on Ladder

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I’ve been thinking about career selection and management a lot recently. When I’m asked how I landed where I am, I’m quick to reply that I wouldn’t wish my career path on anyone but I sure do love where I am now. In all honesty, there has been a lot of hard work, difficult choices and tough breaks along the way. But that’s true for anyone who wants something more.

So what does career management have to do with leadership? It’s a lot harder to lead if you’re not in the right job fit. One of the best ways to excel as a leader is to choose the right context.

Here’s some of the best conventional wisdom I use with myself and others when it comes to charting out a career path – or just making a change.

Your Career Keyboard

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For years I’ve been asked for book recommendations. I always take them seriously because I wouldn’t be the leader I am without my library. It’s been a huge part of my leadership education. As a senior in college, I started reading business bestsellers to see how they compared with my textbooks. When I joined the workforce, I quickly started noticing positive and negative organizational dynamics I had “seen” before in the books – and I knew what needed to change. Several years later I finally landed my first job in leadership development. I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity without having my mind stretched by the books I’d read.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is everyone has leadership development opportunities. You don’t need to be the boss or work in HR. And the right book at the right time can make an incredible difference.

If you’re looking for a leadership read, here’s a great place to start.

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One of my all-time favorite leadership values is being proactive. It’s Stephen Covey’s first habit. Taking initiative (and accepting responsibility) is the characteristic that makes all the others possible. But can it be taken too far?

Unfortunately, I’ve learned it can be – mostly because of the challenges I’ve noticed or inadvertently created for myself over the years. So if you’re a go-getter, keep it up. But know when to go fast and when to slow down. Otherwise, you may experience some of these unpleasant reactions.

Businessman Running

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Be Known Positively

March 7, 2016

Recently I shared 9 Leadership themes for the new year, including this one: be known positively. I’m realizing this particular theme is harder that it seems. But that doesn’t change the fact that you and I are largely responsible for our public perception.

So how can we build positive interactions and relationships with others? Here are nine distinct strategies I’ve picked to focus on.

Shaking Hands

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In the past, I’ve shared the value of being a “Kamerman teammate” – that is, going the extra mile to make your teammate look good. It’s a mindset shift for most of us, and a complete game-changer at that. I’d like to take this concept a step further and share some practical ways to get started. Over the course of my career thus far, I’ve found that these twelve strategies for extraordinary teamwork not only make your team stronger, they have the power to significantly influence the culture of your organization if others begin to follow your example.

Business Colleagues

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Just about all of us are Monday morning quarterbacks when it comes to leadership. Everyone has an opinion. But how grounded are those opinions, especially if we’ve never been there before?

Here’s the thing: if you wait until you receive a leadership role to get a leadership education, you may not last long. We all need a leadership development plan that includes work experiences, formal training, networking and self-study. But don’t overlook the easiest, cheapest and most accessible one of all: observation.

Here are eight observations to make of the leaders around you.

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